This is THE question. Money. I mean, who can afford to put half (or all) their savings into a hobby that won’t pay you back? And who wants to hear the constant rib jabbing from our loved ones about our non-lucrative career choice?
(They do it because they love you. Trust me.)
So many effects artists are asked this very question, and so many of them give detailed you-better-make-sure-this-is-what-you-want-to-do answers. Not. Very. Encouraging.
For instance, take Lars Carlsson, a makeup effects artist out of Sweden with a long list of credits. Carlsson’s answer to the question of whether or not freelancing in makeup effects is lucrative was, “Most people have to struggle to make a living out of it.”
When famed artist Rick Baker was asked for advice in his interview with the Archive of American Television he matter-of-factly said, “If somebody wants to get into the makeup effects thing I think they might want to reconsider…”
Effects Artist Stuart Bray says, “You can be ‘certified’ by a governing body and still be utterly unemployable.”
Effects Artist Shannon Shea says, “We have always had…a very real responsibility to clients who pay us (never enough) money to execute effects for motion pictures.”
So why, then, are there so many makeup effects schools, so many fans of SyFy’s FaceOff, so many aspiring makeup effects artists still asking the question, “How do I get in?”
The answer: The love of practical makeup effects will never die.
There are tons of hobbyists who love what they do simply because it’s fun, not because it brings in tons of money. I can think of a million things that people do for the love of doing it. Makeup effects is such a field.
You’d be setting yourself up for failure if your interest in makeup is strictly for the promise of fame and fortune. Now, that isn’t to say those things aren’t possible. Obviously, worldwide accolades for your latest alien creation are definitely a possibility. But going to a makeup school, getting a degree, packing Fido and a futon and moving to Los Angeles, does not guarantee you a lucrative career in movie makeup.
Is there money to be made in makeup effects? The short answer is no. But don’t let that discourage you. If it weren’t for people like you, who thrive off of changing someone into something fantastic, there’d be no makeup effects.
The best advice is this. Create characters. Get dirty. Learn your craft. Have fun! Do it because you want to do it, because you love to do it. Anything else that comes along? Think of it as a welcomed bonus.